Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Countertenor James Bowman joins Counterpoint Choir for 'An Evening of Handel' Buckfast Abbey Saturday 13 October 2012

James Bowman
countertenor soloist

Countertenor, James Bowman, started singing as a chorister at Ely Cathedral. He earned a choral scholarship to New College Oxford and continued voice training in London while completing his education diploma and master of arts degree in history. In 1967 he went to London to sing at Westminster Abbey.

James Bowman
choral scholar
Meanwhile, in 1947, Benjamin Britten had left Sadler's Wells to start the 'English Opera Group' with Peter Pears. They opened with the première of Britten's opera 'Albert Herring' at Glyndebourne. Peter Pears played Albert.

(N.B. It just so happens that Michael Rosewell will be conducting the Aurora Orchestra, and English Touring Opera, in Albert Herring at the Exeter Northcott Theatre on Thursday and Saturday this week (25 & 27 October) with Mark Wilde playing the part of Albert . . . see previous post and ETO website.)

In 1948 Britten and his English Opera Group put on the premiere of his opera 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' at the Jubilee Hall Aldeburgh - as part of the very first 'Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts'.

James Bowman is Endimione
Janet Baker is Diana
in Francesco Cavalli's 'La Calisto'
In March 1967 the two stories connect. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II opened the 'Queen Elizabeth Hall' at the South Bank Centre. The first opera was performed by the English Opera Company with a new member invited by Britten himself - James Bowman.

On 2nd June 1967 (the 14th anniversary of her coronation), Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth was in Aldeburgh to open the 20th Aldeburgh Festival - and the newly completed Snape Maltings Concert Hall. Five days later Britten's English Opera Group performed his Midsummer Night's Dream in the new hall. Playing Oberon opposite Margaret Price's Tytania was the group's new countertenor - James Bowman.

Since then James has played operatic roles at venues around the world. In 1970 he was the first countertenor to perform in opera at Glyndebourne - as Endimione in the seventeenth century opera 'La Calisto'.

in 1992 James Bowman
is awarded

'la Médaille d'Honneur
de la Ville de Paris
In addition to extensive work in London, James' contribution to the musical life of Paris was particularly appreciated and, in 1992, to mark 25 years of professional work, James was made a member of 'l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres' and awarded 'la Médaille d'Honneur de la Ville de Paris'.

In June 1997, 30 years after his first professional performance, James was made a 'Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire' (C.B.E.) in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

On 21st May 2011, James returned to the scene of another of his early successes, Wigmore Hall. (It was at Wigmore Hall in November 1967 that James performed an audition in front of Emmie Tillett and was selected to join David Munrow's 'Early Music Consort'.)
The concert last May was to be James' final London performance. In a double bill with harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani, James sang three compositions by Henry Purcell, 'The Queen's Epicedium', 'Fairest Isle' and 'Thrice Happy Lovers' - and as an encore, 'Evening Hymn'.

James Bowman
sings Purcell's 'Evening Hymn'
accompanied by David Davies
Exeter Cathedral 16 June 2012
For audiences in London, that concert marked the end of an extraordinary career. But in Devon  audiences could still enjoy James' singing. Later the same year he sang beautiful renaissance songs with lute accompaniment by lutenist Dorothy Linell at Buckfast Abbey (15th October).

This year, on 16th June, James was at Exeter Cathedral to be received into the 'Fellowship of the Royal School of Church Music' (FRSCM) at the Celebration Day Service. The congregation were treated to another delightful performance by James Bowman accompanied by Exeter Cathedral Assistant Director of Music, David Davies, playing the organ. Once again James delighted everyone with Henry Purcell's 'Evening Hymn'. (David Acres has posted a link to a recording on his facebook page)

Together again
James Bowman and David Davies
at Buckfast Abbey
for 'An Evening of Handel'
Saturday 13 October 2012
On Saturday 13th October this year, James Bowman and David Davies were together again. This time they were at Buckfast Abbey to perform four arias from operas by Handel, with string quartet. David played a chamber organ, while the string section was provided by Vicky Evans' Divertimento Ensemble. Vicky played 'cello while Brenda Willoughby led on violin with Catherine Hayek second violin and Andrew Gillett viola.

Although James was undeniably the star of the show, There was also equally stellar choral singing by David Acres' 'Counterpoint' choir. The whole programme was billed as 'An Evening of Handel' It opened and closed with anthems from Handel's 'Music for the Coronation of King George II'. The main part of the concert was made up of excerpts from Handel's oratorio 'The Messiah' - the perfect complement to James' Handel arias.

Despite the extensive building work which is going on in the Abbey, involving scaffolding, tarpaulins, and harsh temporary strip lighting, the instrumentalists and singers dazzled the audience with their musical brilliance from the very first note.

Counterpoint Choir
and accompanists: The Divertimento Ensemble
lead violin: Brenda Willoughby  2nd violin: Catherine Hayek
viola: Andrew Gillett  'cello: Vicky Evans
organ: David Davies

My Heart is Inditing
From 1710-1712 Handel was kapellmeister to George's father, Prince Georg of Hanover. He then came to England where he was paid £200 a year by Queen Anne until her death two years later. Then Georg became King George I and in, 1717, Handel composed his famous 'Water Music' for the royal procession down the Thames. In 1919 Handel was a founder member the Royal Academy of Music.

In June 1927, George I, on one of his many visits to his native Hanover, suffered a stroke and died a few days later. His son became King and, on 25th October, was crowned King George II. Handel was commissioned to write four anthems for the ceremony, including one to celebrate the coronation of George's wife, Queen Caroline.

For Caroline's coronation, Handel reworked an anthem composed by Henry Purcell for the coronation of James II, 32 years earlier. Purcell had taken the words of Psalm 45 and the Book of Isaiah to create the anthem 'My Heart is Inditing'. The word 'inditing' means 'speaking' but also 'overflowing' - with good things (that I do and say for the King).

conductor: David Acres

The concert began with the sound of the Divertimento string quartet and David Davies playing the organ. The opening instrumental phrases echoed the rhythm of the words 'My Heart is Inditing' while a distinguished figure was seen leaving the bass section on the right of the choir and joining the tenors on the left.

It was Julian Rippon, who joined tenor Edward Woodhouse, Alto Juliet Curnow and soprano Daisy Walford to sing the solo line in four voices. First Julian, then Juliet, sang the opening line before joining in duet. Then suddenly Daisy's soprano voice began the process again, closely followed by Edward's tenor.

bass: Julian Rippon  tenor: Edward Woodhouse
alto: Juliet Curnow  soprano: Daisy Walford
What a start! Those four singers, with their incredibly powerful voices, filled the Abbey with beautiful sound. The full force of the choir then made itself felt, lovingly controlled by musical director, David Acres. The anthem continued through four movements, lasting nearly a quarter hour. During that time all distractions, including dust sheets and strip lights, were forgotten as the sound of the choir commanded everyone's full attention.

There were no trumpets for the final fanfare - just a jubilant concord of exhilarating sound as the choir sang the words of Isaiah chapter 49 - 'Kings shall be your nursing fathers, and Queens your nursing mothers!'. A thrilling close.

(An unfortunate translation, some might think. It's not quite clear why the compilers of the James I Bible imagined fathers nursing. The word used in the original Hebrew is 'amnik' which actually means 'foster fathers'. 'Nursing mothers' is a more faithful translation of 'miniqthik' which means 'wet-nurses'.)

Solomon & Theodora
As the choir retired and filed into the benches of the choir-stalls, a familiar figure made his way to the front of the quire - James Bowman. After a brief introduction, with David Davis playing the bass, and the string quartet providing the treble, James sang a beautiful aria from Handel's oratorio 'Solomon' - continuing the theme of Kings.

James sang Solomon's air from the end of act 1 of 'Solomon', 'What though I trace each herb and flower', which was sung at the première in 1749 by mezzo soprano Caterina Galli. A 'trouser rôle' sung by a man - and in an exquisite countertenor voice. As clear and as enchanting as ever, James' soft tones, sometimes in duet with Vicky's 'cello, expressed the mood perfectly - all the world's beauty cannot compare with the glory of Jehovah.

James then moved on to another of Caterina Galli's Handel opera rôles. In 1749 Handel's was also composing an opera about a Christian martyr, Princess Theodora. At the opening of the opera, Theodora and her companion Irene are at an early morning Christian celebration when they are interrupted by Roman soldiers who order everyone to make votive offerings to Venus for Diocletian's birthday.

Despite the threatened punishments for non-compliance, Irene continues the celebration with the, now famous, aria 'As with rosy steps the morn advancing'. Caterina Galli played Irene in the première of 'Theodora' in 1750. James was as convincing playing Irene as he was playing Solomon. This time the admiration of God's creation being tempered with the defiance of an alternative belief system. Handel - and Caterina Galli herself - would have been impressed by the tenderness and determination of James' delivery.

The Messiah
Then followed nine choruses from Handel's 'Messiah', interrupted only by the interval - and a marvellous recitative by tenor Edward Woodhouse, 'All they that see him, laugh him to scorn' which continues 'They shoot out their lips, and shake their heads, saying . . . ', before their final chorus mocking, 'He trusted in God, that he would deliver him.'

Highlights of the 'Evening of Handel' included Juliet Curnow's alto voice breaking through the bass in 'And He shall purify', amazing tenor singing in 'His yolk is easy', and the inexorable fugue of 'All we like sheep have gone astray' which really made the most of the powerful bass voices. The altos excelled too with the countertenors impressively audible from the second row.

Saul & Judas Maccabaeus
After all that excitement Brenda muted her violin for something very gentle from the visiting countertenor James Bowman. In soft plaintive tones James, as the prospective King David, begs that the 'fiend' that has possessed King Saul will be brought under control by God, 'O Lord, whose mercies numberless'. For the reprise of each line he managed to interject a series of grace notes as sweet as birdsong - delighting the audience each time.

As his parting gift, James sang 'Father of Heaven' from 'Judas Maccabaeus'. This aria, from Act III, is sung by a priest preparing to dedicate the Temple at Jerusalem to Hebrew worship after two years (167-165 BC) as a Temple to Zeus under the Seleucid King, Antiochus IV. The ceremony was called 'Hanukkah' (Hebrew: 'to dedicate') and is now known as 'The Feast of Lights' - because of the extra illumination brought in for the festival.

For the Lutheran Christian Handel this is a very important moment. Hanukkah has continued as a Jewish winter festival starting each year on the 25th day of the Hebrew month Kislev. Jesus is described, in the John Gospel, as pronouncing himself the 'Good Shepherd' at Hanukkah, and the Christians replaced Hanukkah with 'Christmas' on the nearest equivalent date - 25th December.

The back-story of 'Judas Maccabaeus' parallels 'Theodora'. Antiochus has threatened persecution if Hebrews would not make offerings to Zeus. The story opens with Judah's father Mattathias resisting the edict, not by accepting death, but by killing a Hebrew man who was willing to comply. Then follow two years of guerrilla warfare, continued by Judah after his father dies. Violent conflict, religious fervour, and the enormous historical significance to Jews, Christians and Muslims, are all compressed into this one passionate aria.

The gentle introduction by Vicky's quartet gave way to James' exhilaratingly tender appeal to the Hebrew God to look down with blessing on the preparations 'to solomnise the Feast of Lights'. James' exquisitely sweet voice, and delightful diction, were infused with all the passion implied in the momentous story.

Time stands still, and history is brought close when we hear such beautiful music.

This was James' last performance of the evening and, seventeen months after his official retirement concert at Wigmore Hall, possibly his last major public performance in Devon. What a perfect choice of music, and what an expressive performance, for such a special moment.

Hallelujah & Zadok the Priest
To bring the Abbey back to it's Christian role, and send everyone away with a spring in their step, the Choir then sang three of Handel's best known and most popular choruses - 'Hallelujah' and 'Worthy is the Lamb' from 'The Messiah', and the anthem 'Zadok the Priest' from the coronation of George II. Always thrilling, these choruses were especially moving when performed by the extraordinary voices of Counterpoint choir under the expressive direction of another countertenor - David Acres.

The builders' scaffolding might have obscured the beautiful stonework of the Abbey, but it could not detract from the exceptional beauty of the music that Saturday night. During its twenty five years, the Counterpoint Choir have seen many superb vocalists amongst its ranks, and has always been synonymous with glorious music in Devon. The addition of an honoured international opera star - the wonderfully expressive countertenor, James Bowman - made this a truly memorable evening for everyone - 'an Evening of Handel'.

Counterpoint will be back at the Abbey for their hugely popular Carol Service at 3pm on Saturday 15th December, and will perform another selection of renaissance songs, reflecting 'The Life and Times of Queen Mary I', at 7.30pm on 9th February next year - and even a perfromance of Fauré's Requiem, with the 'Jef le Penven' choir from Britanny, on 10th May. (Details on the Counterpoint website)

James Bowman will now be enjoying his well deserved retirement - or might we hear him sing again some time? Juliet Curnow is taking up her new post in Gloucestershire and will not sing with Counterpoint at their forthcoming concerts. It is hard to express the gratitude that is due to Juliet, who has performed so many parts for so many choral societies, orchestras, and individual events.

One consolation will be that Juliet thinks she will be able to continue with Janet Macdonald's 'Opera Glass' - who could forget her magnificently flirtatious performance of 'Cosi fan Tutte' with Julian Rippon at Poltimore (15 September). We wait with eager anticipation for her next appearance.

And, of course, we look forward to more outstanding choral music from - 'Counterpoint'.

A fond farewell to alto Juliet Curnow
"My Heart is Inditing"
and countertenor James Bowman
"Father of Heaven"

Monday, 22 October 2012

English Touring Opera at Exeter Northcott Theatre - Three Modern Operas - Three brief descriptions Performances: 'The Lighthouse': Weds 24 October , 'Albert Herring' Thurs 25 October (& Sat 27 October) and 'The Emperor of Atlantis': Fri 26 October 2012

Peter Maxwell Davies
Composer of 'The Lighthouse'
The Lighthouse
Peter Maxewell Davies, born 1934, a Lancashire man, returned to the UK from an Australian residency in the late sixties - to the Orkney islands. Famous for 'The Yellow Cake Review', protesting plans to mine uranium in the Orkneys. Eleanor Bron did the singing, but the instrumental interlude is the most famous part. 'Farewell to Stromness'.
The Lighthouse was composed in 1980, inspired by the discovery of an empty lighthouse at Eilean Mor in the Flannan Isles by a relief crew from Stromness. The opera opens with the three relieving officers describe the scene as they discovered it (to a court of enquiry). Then the scene changes to the three incumbents Arthur, Blazes, and Sandy. This speculative tale is relocated to the fictional lighthouse of 'Fladden' to avoid allusion to real people.

Benjamin Britten
composer of 'Albert Herring'
Albert Herring
Benjamin Britten, born 1913, Suffolk. Inspired by Frank Bridge's 'The Sea'. Composed 'A Boy was Born' for a cappella choir in 1934. became colaborator and life partner of tenor Peter Pears 1937 - and whote 'Variations on a theme of Frank Bridge'. Peter Grimes, 1945, was inspired by Crabbe's 'The Borough' and relocated in Britten's home town, Aldeburgh - also home of the Aldeburgh Festival at Snape Maltings, founded 1948 - by which time 'Albert Herring' had been running at Glyndebourne for a year.

Loxford, Suffolk, 1900. Lady Billows' May Day festival has been undermined by 'Florence' who has found fault with all the potential May Queens. Superintendent Budd suggests a May King - Albert Herring. Village children Sid and Nancy (yes, really) spike Albert's lemonade with rum at the acceptance speach. Drunkenly, Albert takes his prize money and leaves, never to return.

Now read on . . .

Viktor Ullman
Composer of 'The Emperor of Atlantis'
murdered Auschwitz 1944
The Emperor of Atlantis
Viktor Ulmann, born 1898, Teschen, Silesia. A german speaking Czech Jew - estranged from all three groups. After serving in the Great War, studied music with Arnold Schönberg in Vienna, later with Alexander von Zemlinsky in Prague. Moved to the music department of Czechoslovak Radio.  Enrolled in Alois Hába's 'Department of Quarter Tone Music' at the Prague Conservatory 1935. Developed the work of Schönberg and responded to Alban Berg's opera 'Wozzeck' with his own 'Fall of the Antichrist'. 13 of Ullmann's recorded 41 works survived the occupation of Prague by German forces in 1939.

Ullman was deported to Theresienstadt ghetto, Terezín. Although starved and badly treated, the victims were permitted to organise social events - for propaganda purposes. Ullmann was piano accompanist at concerts. His compositions from that time were preserved. 'The Emperor of Atlantis' (The Refusal of Death) was vetoed by the camp commandant, Karl Rahm, as a satire on the Third Reich. The manuscript was preserved by survivor Dr Emil Utiz and the opera was first performed by Netherlands Opera at the Bellevue Centre, Amsterdam in 1975.

Ullmann and his librettist Peter Kein were deported to Auschwitz on 16 October 1944. Kein died of disease shortly after arrival. Ullmann was murdered in a gas chamber at Birkenau on 18 October 1944.

'Der Kaiser von Atlantis'/'Die Tod-Verweigerun' opens with 'Death' chiding 'Harlequin' for his disaffection with life. Death himself has had his rôle usurped by 'Kaiser Overall' who has insisted that everyone fight to the death. Death 'goes on strike'. Overall, worried that many will survive his holocaust, proposes eternal life as inducement to die. 'Bubikopf' (bobbed hair) and a soldier fall in love and refuse to follow Drummer's call to battle. Meanwhile, Overall begs Death to resume his work as reaper.

The outcome for Overall is very prescient, and it is not surprising that Rahm saw a parallel with Hitler.

The score incorporates Johann Sebastian Bach's cantata 'Christ lag in Todes Banden' (Christ lay in death's bonds). written by a 22 year old Bach in 1707 as part of his application for the post of organist at Divi Blasii, Mühlhausen. Written for Easter, the cantata describes the conflict between life and death contrasting the soprano and alto voices. Each verse - 'Christ lay in death's bonds', 'No one could defeat death', 'Christ has come in our place' ('death has lost his sting'), 'It was a strange battle life and death waged', 'Here is the Easter lamb', 'We celebrate the high festival', 'We eat and live well', all end with a triumphant "Hallelujah!"

In addition to the cantata 'The Emperor of Atlantis' is preceded by a new composition by Helen Chadwick 'Towards an Unknown Port' which she wrote in response to the theme of the opera. 'Towards and Unknown Port' will be performed by a local choir.

Tickets: £18-31 with concessions, all performances
- book in advance with Northcott Box Office 01392 493493
or book online at Northcott Opera

What's on - end of October, start of November 2012

English Touring Opera at Exeter Northcott Friday 26 October
Viktor Ullman's 'The Emperor of Atlantis' ('Death Quits')
Katie Bray is 'Drummer, Paula Sides is 'Bubikopf'
Robert Winslade Anderson is 'Death'

(photo: Richard Hubert Smith)

er - wait a minute - isn't Katie dressed up as 'Harlequin'
- that's tenor Jeff Stewart's part!
Paula seems to be 'Drummer' - Katie's part .
There's only one way to find out who's who
- see the opera!

Duncan Honeybourne
(Glenorchy 16 Nov 2010)
Duncan with Fiona Cross
(Glenorchy 2 June 2011)
Lunchtime Concert
Glenorchy Church Exmouth
Wednesday 24 October 12.30pm
piano: Duncan Honeybourne
Admission: FREE
(retiring collection)

The Lighthouse
Adam Tunnicliffe is Sandy
Nicholas Merryweather, Blazes
Richard Mosley-Evans, Arthur
(photo: Richard Hubert Smith)
English Touring Opera
Exeter Northcott Theatre
Three Modern Operas - with English Lyrics
Wednesday 24 October 7.30pm
Peter Maxwell Davis: The Lighthouse
Director Ted Huffman
Conductor Richard Baker
Thursday 25 and Saturday 27 October 7.30pm
Benjamin Britten: Albert Herring
Director Christopher Rolls
Conductor Michael Rosewell
Mark Wilde, Jennifer Rhys Davies
Friday 26 October
7.30pm: Helen Chadwick 'Towards an Unknown Port'
a ten minute cycle of songs
in response to the following opera
sung by a local amateur choir
7.45pm pre-show talk
Mark Wilde
is Albert Herring
(photo: Richard Hubert Smith)
Viktor Ullmann: The Emperor of Atlantis
written with Peter Kien
in Terezin concentration camp
Producer James Conway
Accompanying Bach Cantata (in English)
'Christ lag in Todes Banden'
Tickets: £18-31
Box Office 01392 493493
Northcott website: Lighthouse/Herring/Atlantis
English Touring Opera website

The Powderham Castle Kapellmeister
Professor George Pratt
'Cello Recital at Powderham Castle
James Wyatt Music Room
Friday 26 October 7.30pm
- works for 'cello & keyboard
- two solo 'cello suites
from the notebook of
Anna Magdalena Bach
- Errors in Anna's copy of
'Suite No 1'corrected
for the first time
1769 Bryce-Seede organ harpsichord:
Kapellmeister George Pratt
'Cello: Colin jackson
Tickets: £14
Call Emma (Powerham Castle office)
01626 890243 to book seats
(Students: ask if any remaining
FREE or ½-PRICE student tickets!)

Elizabeth Hornby
Elizabeth Hornby - Piano
Exeter Cathedral Chapter House
Saturday 27 October 1.15pm
pieces from Elizabeth's album:
 'Lady of Lewesdon Hill'
(impressions of Dorset)
Admission FREE - retiring collection

James Boyd

Susie Hodder-Williams
Chris Caldwell

Music on the Edge
St Michael's Church Chagford
Saturday 27 October 7.30pm
The Friends of St Michael's
present: music by Bach,
Debussy & Purcell
classical guitar: James Boyd
flute: Susie Hodder-Williams
saxophone: Chris Caldwell
Tickets: £12 - includes buffet
bookings: from Sally's News
01647 432215

soprano Mary O'Shea
(Glenorchy 9 Nov 2011)
accompanist: John Scarfe
Lunchtime Concert
Glenorchy Church
Wednesday 31 October
soprano: Mary O'Shea
piano: John Scarfe
Admission: FREE
(retiring collection)

Jasminka Stancul
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Exeter University Great Hall
Thursday 1 November 7.30pm
Don Giovanni Overture
Piano Concerto No 21
soloist: Jasminka Stancul
Idomeneo Ballet Music
Symphony No 29
conductor: Nicholas Collon
Tickets: gallery front £36
Nicholas Collon
             gallery rear £29.50
              gallery box £21.50
               ground £21.50 / £18 / £12
Exeter Phoenix Box Office: 01392 667080
book online

Exeter Alternative Theatre
Barnfield Theatre, Exeter
Weds 31 Oct  - Sat 3 Nov 8pm
An imagined re-opening of Exeter's
Theatre Royal - in 1889
'Before Dracula' - Bram Stoker in Exeter
'Lilly Laudanum' - danse macabre
'The Living Doll' - secrets of the music box
'Flaming Feathers' - can-can
'And then there was One' - Jack the Ripper
'Ms Johnson's Séance' - supernatural
'Kitty Brunel' - music hall songs
'The Phantom Juggler' - extraordinary skill
Tickets: £12.50 (student £10)
Box Office: 01392 270891
Barnfield website
Exeter Alternative Theatre website

The Laurence Blyth Singers
in Exeter Cathedral Chapter House

Soprano Josie Walledge,
Counter-Tenor Laurence Blyth

Baritone Matthew Cann,
Tenor Edward Woodhouse

Bass Julian Rippon
'Cello Hilary Boxer
Laurence Blyth Singers & Schola Exe
Exeter Cathedral
Friday 2 November 5.30pm
All Souls' Eucharist:
Eucharist of the Commemoration
of the Faithful Departed
Gabriel Fauré: 'Requiem Mass'
an Anglican church service - open to all

soprano: Keri Fuge
Devon Baroque
1. St George's Church, Tiverton
Saturday 3 November 7.30pm
2. Dartington Great Hall
Sunday 4 November 3pm
Harpsichordist & Director of Music:
Jonathan Watts
a) a parody of Pergolesi's 'Stabat Mater'
'Tilge, Höchster, meine Sünden' (Psalm 51)
soprano: Keri Fuge, alto: Nicholas Clapton
b) a transcription of Harpsichord Concerto 6
Brandenburg Concerto IV
recorders: Alan Davis & James Risdon
alto: Nicholas Clapton
c) a reworking of music by Vivaldi
Harpsichord Concerto in G minor BWV 975
harpshichord: Jonathan Watts
d) from a cantata by Bartolomeo Conti
'Languet anima mea'
soprano: Keri Fuge
Tickets: £18 (student/U18 £5)
Dartington: 01803 847070 (12.30-7pm)
Appearing soon on Dartington website
Tiverton: TIC 01884 255827
Devon Baroque website

Clive Betts - guitar
'Café at 36' Cowick Street
Sunday 4 November 11.30am - 2.30pm
Admission FREE
to book lunch: 01392 410352

Exeter Cathedral
Bach Cantata Service
Exeter Cathedral
Sunday 4 November 6pm
Exeter Bach Society and St Peter's Singers
Cantata 150: 'Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich'
an Anglican church service - open to all

- followed by:

David Davies
Exeter Bach Society
Exeter Cathedral Chapter House
Sunday 4 November 7pm
Director of Music: David Davies
A talk on pre-reformation church music
composer John Sheppard (1515-60)
with examples from the choir
Tickets: £10 details TBA
Exeter Bach Society website

Osiligi Maasai Warriors 
Osiligi Maasai Warriors
Exeter Cathedral Chapter House
Tuesday 6 November 1pm
Tribal songs and dances
Admission FREE - collection for:
'Osiligi Charity Projects'
(supporting Kenyan villages)

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Colin Jackson plays 'Cello, Powderham Castle, Friday press release from Professor George Pratt

George Pratt
Kapellmeister at Powderham Castle
plays the Bryce Seede Organ
in the James Wyatt Music Room

To all Friends of the 1769 Powderham Castle Organ Restoration Fund

- Mostly Bach -

A last reminder of the concert on Friday next, 26th, at 7.30 pm
for which Colin Jackson and I have been rehearsing with enormous enjoyment.
He will be playing two of Bach astonishing Suites for unaccompanied 'cello
– the solo instrument alone provides all the lyrical melody and rich harmony.
Colin plays on a glorious cello by Antonio Casini of Modena, 1678.

I’m looking forward, too, to telling you the detective story about a mistake in one movement of the first Suite.  While Bach’s hard-pressed wife was copying it out for him, she must have been distracted by children, her husband demanding his supper, or some other such domestic crisis, and she inserted half a bar which clearly doesn’t belong.  For 300 years it had been simply missed out – and I’m sure that’s wrong!  Do come and see if I can convince you about my alternative solution….

We’re also playing two charming sonatas by Marcello for cello and keyboard,
and I’m adding a couple of short harpsichord pieces to provide a brief change of tone-colour.

There are still some tickets left for this (including a few free ones for students)
– ring Powderham Castle on 01626 890243

Messiah on December 14th is selling fast and if you want to experience our ‘domestic-scale’ performance – eight of the finest singers in the South West together with the strings, wind and trumpet of Divertimento – I suggest you should not delay too long before ordering tickets.  It will, as usual at that time of year, include the chance to enjoy mince pies and mulled wine by the roaring log-fire in the State Dining Room during the interval.

Tickets for each concert are £14, with a student offer of £7.50 for October 26th, once the 10 free student ones have been taken up.

St John's Church Totnes, Sunday 11th November 3pm, Divertimento will be presenting a concert of string sextets - music with a hauntingly warm, rich texture which is quite rare.
They will be playing:
Sextet No 1 in B flat by Johannes Brahms
'Verklärte Nacht' (Transfigured Night) Opus 4 by Arnold Schoenberg
(a very audience-friendly work written before he embarked on his more challenging ‘twelve-note’ style!) The music will be presented, and the audience enlightened, by Cornish musician Colin Hodgetts (Performing Rights Society, Contemporary Music for All, Society for the Promotion of New Music).

Tickets £12, £2 off for concessions, students and children FREE.
Advance booking: Divertimento 01803 863677, Tourist Info 01803 863168

With all good wishes,

George Pratt

Friday, 19 October 2012

Exeter Northcott Theatre: Guy Fenton from Tiverton to play 'Harry' in Britten's 1947 opera 'Albert Herring' Thursday 24 & Saturday 27 October 2012

Mark Wilde is Albert Herring
(photo: Richard Hubert Smith)

Exeter Schoolboy, 14,

to sing in major opera company’s national tour

·        A schoolboy from Tiverton is to sing a prominent role in English Touring Opera’s new national tour of Benjamin Britten’s opera Albert Herring
·        Guy Fenton, aged 14, is from Tiverton. He will play the schoolboy Harry in ETO’s performances of Albert Herring at Exeter Northcott Theatre on Thursday 25 October and Saturday 27 October, and also in Bath and Malvern
·        ETO’s national tour opened on 4 October in London at the Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, and takes in nine towns and cities across the country this October and November
·        ETO’s visit to Exeter also features two highly dramatic operas: Peter Maxwell Davies’ psychological mystery The Lighthouse performed on Wednesday 24 October, and Viktor Ullmann’s dark satire The Emperor of Atlantis, written in a concentration camp during World War II, performed on Friday 26 October
·        Booking and further information:

An Exeter schoolboy plays a prominent role in English Touring Opera’s (ETO) national tour of Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring, which comes to Exeter Northcott Theatre on Thursday 25 and Saturday 27 October.

Guy Fenton, 14, from Tiverton, is a pupil at King’s College Taunton, and has sung in major productions in Bristol, Coventry and Exeter. He sings the part of cheeky schoolboy Harry in ETO’s Exeter performances of Albert Herring. The production opened earlier in October in London’s Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Guy was a chorister at Exeter Cathedral from 2007-2011, becoming principal soloist in the choir. When auditions were announced, he was recommended for the part of Harry by Andrew Millington, the director of music from the cathedral. As well as the performances in the Northcott, Guy will also be singing the same role later in the tour, at Bath’s Theatre Royal and Malvern’s Forum Theatre.

Albert Herring, a satire with undertones of melancholy, has become recognised as a classic, comic depiction of English village life. ETO’s new production, conducted by Michael Rosewell and directed by Christopher Rolls, includes many experienced and award-winning singers including Jennifer Rhys-Davies, and Mark Wilde in the title role. The role of Harry is being shared across ETO’s tour by four boys.

Guy said: “I was so excited when I found out I had got the part. It’s been such a great experience working with a professional company like ETO. I’ve enjoyed meeting all the cast and crew who have been very friendly, and it’s been so much fun to work with everyone".

Guy’s mother Sarah Fenton said: "It's been fascinating to get an insight into the work that goes on behind the scenes before a large production takes to the road. Everybody has been very supportive of Guy and it’s been an amazing experience for both of us."

English Touring Opera - Full details of Britten/Ullmann/ Maxwell Davies at Exeter Northcott

Intimate Opera, High Drama:
English Touring Opera Autumn 2012
Exeter Northcott Theatre
Wednesday 24 October – Saturday 27 October
In collaboration with Aurora Orchestra

The Lighthouse
Adam Tunnicliffe is Sandy
Nicholas Merryweather is Blazes
Richard Mosley-Evans is Arthur
(photo: Richard Hubert Smith)

The Lighthouse (Wednesday 24 October)
Music and words by Peter Maxwell Davies
Conducted by Richard Baker, Directed by Ted Huffman

 Albert Herring (Thursday 25 October & Saturday 27 October)
Music by Benjamin Britten, words by Eric Crozier
Conducted by Michael Rosewell, Directed by Christopher Rolls

The Emperor of Atlantis (Friday 26 October)
Music by Viktor Ullmann, words by Sonja Lyndon
translated from original libretto by Peter Kien
Conducted by Peter Selwyn, Directed by James Conway

performed alongside
Christ lag in Todesbanden, BWV 4 by Johann Sebastian Bach,
arranged by Iain Farrington and directed by James Conway

English Touring Opera are once again collaborating with Aurora Orchestra this autumn on a unique season of theatrical opera set to be performed across the country. The tour presents a rare opportunity for audiences at regional theatres and opera houses to see full-scale performances of three diverse and unusual works.

From Wednesday 24 October to Saturday 27 October, ETO will perform new productions of Peter Maxwell Davies’ The Lighthouse, Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring and a paired staging of Viktor Ullmann’s short opera The Emperor of Atlantis and the Bach cantata Christ lag in Todesbanden.

All performances are at the the Northcott Theatre, Exeter University Campus, starting at 7.30pm.  On Wednesday and Thursday, at 6.30pm, there will be pre-show talks about the operas in 'The Forum' - which is between the Northcott and the Great Hall. On Friday there will be a pre-show talk between the cantata and the opera.
Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring, a satire with undertones of melancholy, has become recognised as a classic, comic depiction of English village life. At the start of the composer’s centenary year, ETO’s new production, conducted by Michael Rosewell and directed by Christopher Rolls, includes many experienced and award-winning singers including Jennifer Rhys-Davies, and Mark Wilde in the title role.

Viktor Ullmann’s short opera The Emperor of Atlantis was written when the composer and librettist were prisoners of the Nazis at the Terezín concentration camp, and was first rehearsed by inmates of the camp, all of whom perished when transferred to Auschwitz before the premiere. The opera has been acclaimed in performances around the world as an extraordinary testament of wit and humanity in the face of barbarity.

James Conway’s new production of Ullmann’s opera is conducted by Peter Selwyn and will be paired with a poignant staging of J S Bach’s cantata Christ lag in Todesbanden (Christ Lay in Death’s Bonds), arranged for the first time by Iain Farrington for Ullmann’s unusual orchestra.

James Conway said: ‘This is no normal season of operas, but a sort of touring festival of approachable, intimate, theatrically compelling operas from the last century. It has every chance of being a performance that changes your ears and your eyes, even your life.’

Ted Huffman said: ‘It's an honour to direct Maxwell Davies' The Lighthouse this autumn for ETO. The opera presents a unique series of challenges because it is built considerably on atmosphere and suggestion, giving me both great freedom and the feeling that sands are shifting beneath my feet. As is the case with most good ghost stories, I believe that the frightening thing about this story is not what the dead might be getting up to but rather what the living might be capable of.’

John Harte, General Manager of Aurora Orchestra, said: ‘We are delighted to be working again this season with English Touring Opera, not only because of the consistently superb quality of its artistic output, but also in particular because of its imaginative programming and commitment to making great music as widely accessible as possible.  This approach dovetails closely with Aurora's own ethos, and we look forward very much to inspiring new and existing audiences together on tour later this year.’

Listings Information

Albert Herring
Composer: Benjamin Britten
Conductor: Michael Rosewell
Cast: Mark Wilde (Albert Herring), Jennifer Rhys-Davies (Lady Billows), Rosie Aldridge (Florence Pike), Anna-Clare Monk (Miss Wordsworth), Charles Johnston (Mr Gedge, the vicar), Richard Roberts (Mr Upfold, the mayor), Tim Dawkins (Superintendent Budd), Charles Rice (Sid), Martha Jones (Nancy), Clarissa Meek (Mrs Herring)

The Lighthouse
Composer: Peter Maxwell Davies
Conductor: Richard Baker
Cast: Adam Tunnicliffe (Sandy), Nicholas Merryweather (Blazes), Richard Mosley-Evans (Arthur)

The Emperor of Atlantis (Der Kaiser von Atlantis)
Composer: Viktor Ullmann
Conductor: Peter Selwyn
Cast: Richard Mosley-Evans (Emperor Overall), Robert Winslade Anderson (Death), Callum Thorpe (Loudspeaker), Paula Sides (Bubikopf), Jeffrey Stewart (Harlequin), Katie Bray (Drummer)

Exeter Northcott, Exeter, UK

24 October 2012: The Lighthouse
25 October 2012: Albert Herring
26 October 2012: The Emperor of Atlantis
27 October 2012: Albert Herring

Booking information: 01392 493 493 /

Running Times

Albert Herring – 2 hours 40 minutes, including one 20 minute interval

Christ lag in Todesbanden / The Emperor of Atlantis – 1 hour 20 minutes, with no interval
(c.20 minutes for Christ lag in Todesbanden; c.55 minutes for The Emperor of Atlantis)

The Lighthouse – 1 hour 35 minutes, including one 20 minute interval

English Touring Opera is the leading touring opera company in the UK. ETO travels to more regions and to more venues than any other English opera company, touring annually to around 70 theatres and presenting as many as 140 performances per year.  Our aim is to offer opera to everyone, with a varied repertoire of high-quality professional productions and education projects. Each year there are touring productions in Spring and Autumn. The Spring tour tends to be larger scale, with a modern orchestra and chorus, while Autumn tours tend to be more intimate, with a diverse repertoire. The roughly ‘classical’ scale of presentation is dictated by the size of the venues, generally theatres which receive little or no other opera. The repertoire is selected with respect to that scale, to the company’s eager audiences around the country, and to the particular strengths of our current cast.

Aurora Orchestra
Since its creation in 2005, Aurora Orchestra has established itself as the most significant new British chamber orchestra in a generation. With two flourishing London residencies and a busy national and international touring schedule, the orchestra has attracted particular praise for its innovative and eclectic programming, adventurous cross-art form collaboration, and commitment to building new audiences for classical music.  It has worked with a roster of world-class artists including Ian Bostridge, Gerald Finley, Rosemary Joshua, Angelika Kirchschlager, Kate Royal, Maxim Rysanov and Robin Ticciati, and last year became the youngest-ever recipient of the Royal Philharmonic Society's Ensemble Award.  Current season highlights include debut appearances at the Royal Festival Hall and Camden's Roundhouse, collaborations with break dancers, klezmer musicians and filmmakers as part of its New Moves series, and a a televised appearance at the BBC Proms. 

James Conway
General Director of ETO, James Conway has directed a range of operas for the company – including, most recently, the critically-acclaimed Xerxes (Handel), Il tabarro (Puccini), La clemenza di Tito (Mozart) and Eugene Onegin (Tchaikovsky). In 2010, James directed the world première of Alexander Goehr’s opera, Promised End. His production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (performed by ETO in 2004, and revived in 2010) was nominated for an RPS award. 2012 is Conway’s 10th year with English Touring Opera. During his decade as General Director, he has directed 20 new productions and 4 revivals. In Spring 2013, Conway will be directing Verdi Simon Boccanegra and Donizetti The Siege of Calais for ETO. Conway has written original libretti for two operas and translations for three others, as well as several works of fiction.

Christopher Rolls
Christopher Rolls is a theatre and opera director based in London, UK. He trained in International Theatre Directing (MA) at Middlesex University (London, N. Ireland, Bangkok, Moscow) and has worked all over the world. In November 2011, he was nominated in category of ‘Outstanding Newcomer’ for a London Evening Standard Theatre Award. In February 2011, Christopher’s production of Les Parents Terribles by Jean Cocteau was nominated for an Olivier Award in the category of Outstanding Production in an Affiliate Theatre. In 2005 Christopher was Resident Assistant Director (RAD) for the Donmar Warehouse Theatre in London’s West End. Christopher has worked as an Assistant Director and Associate Director for the UK’s National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal Opera house – Covent Garden, and in the West End.

Ted Huffman
American stage director Ted Huffman has created opera and theatre productions throughout North America and Europe. Ted co-founded the Greenwich Music Festival in Connecticut and continues to serve as the company’s Artistic Director, creating productions including Poulenc’s La voix humaine, Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, and Henze’s El Cimarrón, for which he received a nomination for “Best Opera Direction 2010” in Opernwelt. As a guest teacher and director, Ted has been engaged by many young artist development programs, including Canadian Opera Company’s Studio, LA Opera’s Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program, Pittsburgh Opera Studio and the Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Program. He is also a graduate of San Francisco’s Merola Opera Program and the Jerwood Opera Writing Programme at the Aldeburgh Festival (UK).

Michael Rosewell
Michael Rosewell is currently Music Director for English Touring Opera and Opera Director at the Royal College of Music. He began his conducting career in Germany before joining the Vienna State Opera. In Vienna he assisted Claudio Abbado and worked closely with the world’s leading singers, notably Pavarotti and Domingo. Michael has conducted in Kassel, Wiesbaden; Mannheim, where he was resident staff conductor; ENO, and at numerous international festivals, including Buxton, Bath, Perth and Montepulciano. He has appeared at the Aldeburgh Festival and is recognised as one of the leading interpreters of Britten's music. In concert he has worked with many European orchestras and broadcast on Radio France Musique and Südwestfunk. Most recently, Michael conducted Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin for ETO and recorded a CD with Grammy award winning tenor Alfie Boe and the Orchestra of Scottish Opera.

Peter Selwyn
Born in London, Peter Selwyn began his career on the Music Staff of ENO, before moving to London’s Royal Opera. At the Bayreuth Festival, he worked for three seasons as assistant to Adam Fischer and Giuseppe Sinopoli on Der Ring des Nibelungen. From 1999 to 2005 he was Kapellmeister and Head of Music at the Staatstheater Nuremberg. He has conducted Jenufa and La cenerentola for ETO, and other companies with whom he has worked include Singapore Lyric Opera, Stadttheater Fürth, OHP, Opera North, Pegasus Opera and WNO. Peter Selwyn is Co-Founder and Artistic Director of the Internationales Kammermusik Festival Nürnberg.

Richard Baker
Richard Baker is a leading figure on the British contemporary music scene as one of the foremost composer conductors of his generation. He has relationships with many of the UK's leading ensembles – London Sinfonietta, BCMG, Composers Ensemble and Apartment House.  He is a regular collaborator for the BBC Total Immersion days; for Karlsruhe in Spring 2013  he will conduct a new production of Gerald Barry's The Triumph of Beauty and Deceit. Richard  studied composition in theNetherlands with Louis Andriessen and in London with John Woolrich, and has a  significant number of works to his credit including 'Learning to Fly', a basset clarinet concerto, 'Gaming' and 'Written on a Train' for voice and ensemble. He is currently writing a new work for Birmingham Contemporary Music Group,for February 2013.